In what figures to be a frantic ritual for days to come, San Francisco’s Department of Elections updated its voting totals at just after 4 p.m. today.

Some 18,500 of around 86,000 outstanding ballots were processed today. And while these new numbers were well-received by backers of District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown and interim DA Suzy Loftus, for those awaiting definitive election outcomes — and election director John Arntz says we may well require another 10 days of counting and verifying votes — this did not provide clarity. 

In today’s update, Brown overcame a 218-vote deficit to challenger Dean Preston and now leads by 88 votes after ranked-choice computations. That’s astoundingly tight, but Brown’s 306-vote pickup in about 1,900 District 5 votes is a hell of a showing. “Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day,” summed up Jen Snyder, Preston’s campaign manager. “Eighty-eight votes is not insurmountable.” 

In the contest for District Attorney, Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin still leads by more than 1,000 votes head-to-head vs. Loftus and the field. But, after picking up ranked-choice votes from vanquished candidates Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch, Loftus tops Boudin by just over 2,200 votes.

Read yesterday’s breaking election coverage

“These ballots were very good for Loftus,” sums up S.F. State political science professor Jason McDaniel. “She closed the first-place gap, and the ranked-choice tally is breaking her way.”

Not surprisingly, Loftus’ consultant, Nicole Derse, agreed: “Could things change somewhat? Sure. But this was a big percentage of the vote and we beat Chesa in this batch of votes.”

Most of the ballots processed today were received by mail on Tuesday, with some being dropped off yesterday at polling places. And while today’s results have been tabulated, it will be several more days until we know the answer to what has become the existential question of San Francisco elections: Do late absentee voters who drop off or mail their ballots in the election’s waning days vote more like left-leaning in-person voters — or like moderate-leaning early absentee voters? 

To wit: Will this year’s election resemble London Breed vs. Mark Leno in 2018, in which the mayor-to-be caught and passed her opponent in late absentees — or Jane Kim’s performance in that very same election, during she consistently gained in late-absentee votes after a solid day-of-election showing? 

So far, it’s the former.

“My preliminary take is that vote-by-mail voters are vote-by-mail voters,” says McDaniel. To date, these results look more like the early absentees that staked Loftus and Brown to leads than the day-of-election votes that propelled Preston and Boudin. “So, good for Loftus, good for Brown,” McDaniel says. 

Today’s sample of 15,000 votes — 1,823 from District 5 — voted like early absentee voters. Good for Loftus, good for Brown, as the professor said — but this is just a sample. Some 71,000 ballots remain. An unknown number of District 5 ballots remain. 

In other salient news, Prop. A, the $600 million housing bond is in the pink with 69.3 percent of the vote; ride-share tax Prop. D has a bare-minimum 66.71 percent.

New numbers will drop Thursday at 4 p.m.

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